Monday, March 9, 2009

Cinnamon Rolls

I am an emotional eater. Not a my-boyfriend-frowned-at-me-eat-a-whole-pint-of-ben-and-jerry's eater mind you, but when I have had a tough day, when I feel the love for someone in my life, when I am celebrating, when I am mourning, I cook. My family doesn't hug and kiss, we feed. Food is affection to me, for better (my taste buds) or worse (my waistline).

Combine this with a rather strenuous need to have a system for everything and the result is a menu for every occasion, a specialty for every emotion.

Lately the occasion that has dominated my psyche has been travel, both mine and that of people I care about. And traveling brings with it certain opportunities that living downtown in a big city, eating out with fancy people often does not- namely, road food. Or airport food, as the case may be. And few things make me salivate and ignore the snugness of my pants more than the smell of Cinnabon across the airport after a long flight, usually from barbaric culture that does not know the joy of free refills, liberal use of deodorant, and gooey, sticky, teeth-crackingly sweet head sized cinnamon rolls.

I, however, will not be at an airport anytime soon, as most of my travel will be by car. Nevertheless, I woke up craving the taste. Helps that a certain man in my life shares my passion, and was coming over that evening for dinner. I've been slowly working my way through various breads, and thought that maybe the time had come to give cinnamon rolls another shot, after an epic failure a few years ago that resulted in a 4pm Sat binge trip to Cinnabon in the South Bend mall and some pretty hateful self commentary after finishing off a pack of 6.

If you want them for breakfast, make them the day before, refrigerate, and reheat in the oven the next morning. These are actually even better reheated, something about being in the fridge makes the goo even yummier! I accidentally cut mine too thin (3/4 inch thick, before rising), I recommend about 2 inches.

The rolls are easy:
2 packs of yeast
1 cup milk or water
4 cups of flour
1 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp nutmeg or cardamon
1 tsp salt

1 cup of brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

equal parts cream cheese and butter
two parts powdered sugar to cream cheese and butter
lemon and vanilla extract to taste

Scald the milk, let cool to about 105 degrees, and then add the yeast and brown sugar and one cup flour. Fold together. Let the yeast sponge grow for 30 min or so in a warm place.

Once the yeast mix is a bit foamy, add the the butter (softened) and fold in the flour a little at a time. Use only enough to get the dough firm and just past sticky. Too much will dry it out. Fold in the salt and spices last. Kneed the heck out of it, 10 min in a mixer with a dough hook, 20 min by hand (if you are good at it, more if you are new to this). Form into a ball, and put into a greased bowl (roll it around a bit to coat the outside of the dough- this prevents a crust from forming). Cover with a loose towel. Let rise about 40 min in a warm place

Once dough has doubled in size, punch down and let rise an additional 30 min.

Once dough has again doubled in size, roll it out into a large rectangle. Cream together the filling ingredients and spread over the dough. The butter should be very soft, and using your hands works best.

Then roll the dough from the bottom long edge to the top. Once the dough is rolled, slice into 2in slices and place on a pan with plenty of room to rise and spread out. Put in a warm place and let rise for an hour.

I like to use an egg wash on the rolls, but this isn't strictly necessary.

Bake for about 1 hr, or until golden. I like to make additional filling on the stove by mixing another set of filling ingredients in a pan, adding just enough water to make things dissolve, and then poring it on top of the just-out-of-the-oven rolls.

To make the frosting, whip together frosting ingredients until fluffy, about 8-9 min in an electric mixer. I really like to add the lemon/vanilla extracts at this point (using lemon juice vice extract will negatively affect the texture of the frosting for this recipe by preventing it from getting a little bit of a butter-cream like shell on the outside). I put a LOT of this on the warm rolls, and viola, deliciousness!!

If you are refrigerating the rolls, you can make a simple glaze from powdered sugar and milk and poor it over the rolls (prevents them from drying out). Make the frosting and set aside. Once you are ready to reheat, add the frosting on top, pop them in the oven on low, and yum!

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